This year alone, it’s predicted that holiday retail sales will top $1.10 trillion.
It’s a pivotal time for companies: bright and jolly marketing campaigns go out in a flurry and sales teams put on the pressure to get their numbers to an all-time high.
But, while the increase in marketing efforts inevitably leads to more customers, it also means customer support teams find themselves spread thin.
The number of support tickets goes through the roof, and customers are more on edge than any other time of the year with the stress of buying gifts, which means they’re more inclined to make complaints if the support they are offered isn’t up to scratch.
Planning for the holiday season is not only important, but it’s also absolutely vital if you want to keep your customers happy and avoid those dreaded low-star reviews that can be devastating for a business. By creating a business where the marketing teams and customer support can easily communicate takes more up-front work, but the benefits are well worth the effort. It can make processes way more efficient, dramatically increase employee happiness, and save you a lot of financial turmoil.
So how can you align your marketing activities and customer support during the holiday season?
#1 Provide a Multi-Channel Experience
In the past, the only way to get through to customer support was by calling up and listening to classical music while you waited for a representative to free up. Today, there are so many more options that can be aligned with your marketing efforts.
For example, if you’re running a campaign across social media, you can open up a support channel via Facebook Messenger or through Twitter DMs so customers don’t have to leave the platform they’re on to get in touch.
Having customer support teams dotted across different channels means that one line of contact won’t get clogged up (we’ve all had to wait half an hour on hold and it’s not fun).
By using in-the-moment methods of communication like social media or live chat, you’re tapping into the fast-paced nature of the holiday season; people want answers and they want them right away.
#2 Use Past Data to Drive Efforts
Your marketing team will have reports from previous holiday seasons, including data about what worked and what didn’t. Your customer support team will also have information about things like the percentage increase of support tickets.
These two segments of data shouldn’t be separate. Instead, be transparent with the numbers from both sides to create a more streamlined strategy.
Amazon is renowned for using data to assist their customer support efforts and it’s clearly paid off as they are illustrious for their outstanding customer service. By using big data, Amazon support representatives already have all the information they need the moment a customer needs support. Amazon is constantly collecting and tracking data which allows them to build and improve their relationships with customers which is something all support systems should strive for.
#3 Hold Regular Meetings Between Departments
Communication is key if you want your customer support team to be able to handle the increased demand through your holiday marketing efforts.
During the peak season, marketing is sending out their biggest campaigns but it’s your customer support team that will get all the questions off the back of it. This means they need to be informed about what’s going on at all times; they need to know if the marketing department is running a flash sale on shipping so they can answer customer questions adequately.
In order to do this, it’s a good idea to hold regular meetings between the two departments where each side can share their upcoming plans, concerns, and questions.
#4 Automate As Much As You Can
Automation has taken a huge weight off the shoulders of support staff and marketers, but it works best when it enriches human interactions rather than takes over them completely.
For specific campaigns, you can create a detailed FAQ landing page that can be automatically sent out to customers who contact the customer support team. Or, alternatively, you can set up workflows for products you know will be in high demand due to their accompanying marketing campaigns.
Take Metro PCS for example. They automate their FAQ page with a virtual chat assistant. Chatbots are a great way to leverage your FAQ page because they drive and expedite the user journey, which is the main purpose of any customer support system anyways right?
#5 Manage Customer Expectations
Sometimes the marketing department and customer support teams don’t always have the same motives. Marketing wants to send out the glitziest, highest-converting campaigns they can, while support is more concerned with providing an excellent service for customers.
To address this potential imbalance, it’s worth planning out how to manage your customers’ expectations in advance.
For example, if your marketing efforts are promoting a specific product, you need to let customers know when they can get a discount on that product and when the offer ends. Providing them with everything they need to know about the campaign up-front will take some of the stress off your customer support team who won’t have to waste time answering trivial questions.
Prepare for the Holiday Season
The holidays are an exciting time for businesses; full-on marketing campaigns give companies the chance to take the spotlight, while the increase in general sales worldwide means they’ll get a bit of the action too.
And, when your marketing efforts align with your customer support processes, you can literally watch your revenue shoots skywards. All it takes is a little forward planning to make sure your customer support teams are ready and equipped to deal with the increase in sales.